Walking Football is a slower version of football designed to get older Victorians active. It promotes social interactions among participants, fostering a sense of inclusion.
As the name suggests, the game involves walking instead of running. The ball is kept below hip height and minimal tackling is allowed. The rules of the game are adaptable, so all players are kept safe.
The Walking Football program was developed by City in the Community (CITC) which is a non-for-profit extension of Melbourne City A-League Football. Seed funding was granted to CITC through the VicHealth Innovation Challenge: Physical Activity.
Results at the end of the 18-month period saw over 1100 Victorians inspired to play Walking Football and almost 300 sessions delivered. For a new program, these numbers are promising.
- It is important to consider the sustainability of a program from the start
- Adaptability, in every aspect, is important for continual improvement
- A successful program, supported by evidence, will attract funding from partners
- Consulting with the target audience will provide insight to further develop ideas which meet their needs
What are Walking Football’s benefits?
Walking Football is a low impact game, with modified rules. It provides opportunities for participants to form social connections, providing mental health benefits. Facilitators are trained to be able to cater to participants with different needs, including those with mobility challenges and culturally linguistic backgrounds.
Why is Walking Football successful?
Using a co-design model to speak with participants provided CITC with a stronger understanding of their intended audience. Through listening, they recognised problems which arose and developed solutions to address these. They were also able to determine the demand of the program in a community setting.
The game was trialled extensively, demonstrating its ability to safely increase physical activity levels in older Victorians.
Feedback from carers and stakeholders also played an important role in allowing further refinement of the program.
Community Program Coordinator from Melbourne City Football Club George Halkias said during this stage, "CITC had developed its activity, coaches and facilitators, training package and promotion materials that would seek prospective partners under a new sustainable model and environment."
CITC considered the sustainability of the program from the outset, which made it easier for the program to transition after funding. CITC prepared for self-sufficiency by communicating honestly with current and prospective partners.
The ability to establish a successful evidence-based program sparked interest in other potential partners. Favourable results from co-design showed key stakeholders and advocates why the program should continue.
Currently, Walking Football have several partners including University of the Third Age, City of Whittlesea, City of Darebin, Hume City Council, Knox City Council, City of Maroondah and Maccabi FC Caulfield.
In January 2019, Football Federation Australia successfully received a grant under ‘Move It Aus – Better Ageing. This program will fund walking football and allow it to be spread nationally by associating with nine state/territories Member Federations.